This trip on the St. Maries starts out deceptively calm. A paddler can enjoy the swallows that nest under the SR 3 bridge and the eagles that have their own nest nearby, at much loftier heights. Campers wave from shore at a speck on the map called Mashburn. Deer splash across the river. The peace lasts for roughly the first third of the trip, even as the narrow river begins dropping into a heavily wooded canyon. But a close look at a topographical map shows the contour lines coming close upon each other in the middle miles, where the canyon is especially remote.
There, paddlers can do little but pry, draw, and cross-draw—often in quick succession—to keep their boats upright. There are few breaks between rapids, and at low water, even the best of paddlers will simply ricochet from rock to rock. Then the calm returns, as the St. Maries broadens into the shady, lazy stream that eventually joins the St. Joe River at the town of St. Maries.
© Verne Huser, Rich Landers, Dan Hansen, and Doug North/The Mountaineers Books. All Rights Reserved.